A Stroll Through an Atoll

A Stroll in an Atoll Photo
A section of WCS's new Beck Interpretive Trail nearby the Glover's Reef Research Station in Belize.
Sue Chin/WCS

Ocean-loving tourists can now explore one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest coral reef systems without having to don a SCUBA suit. WCS has opened a new walking trail through the 14-acre Middle Caye on Glover’s Reef. Along the way, signs exhibiting interpretive graphics help illustrate the history and importance of this unique Caribbean ecosystem to sea life as well as to local communities.

About 28 miles off the coast of Belize, Glover’s Reef is one of the Atlantic Ocean’s true atolls, a string of coral islands surrounding a lagoon. The atoll and plentiful mangroves hint at the vivid seascape living beneath the surface—sea turtles, sharks, rays, crustaceans, and many fish and coral species.

Facing problems of overfishing, pollution and unregulated tourism, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Lying at the heart of the UNESCO site is Glover’s. For decades, WCS has been working to protect this marine ecosystem, in part through fostering sustainable fishing practices and responsible ecotourism.

“The Beck Interpretive Trail teaches visitors that it is essential to preserve Glover Reef, all while looking out at spectacular views of the ocean, wildlife, reef crest, and native vegetation,” said Caleb McClennen, director of WCS’s marine programs. “This seascape is home to hundreds of marine species and the trail will help us promote long-term conservation through training and education.”

In 1993, WCS partnered with the government of Belize to establish the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. The WCS research station, where researchers, students, and members of the public can stay to study and explore this richly diverse seascape, opened in 1997.

The Beck Interpretive Trail has been realized thanks to the generosity of Melinda Beck Frost in recognition of her parents, Joyce and Robert Beck. WCS’s Exhibition and Graphic Arts Department designed the trail in collaboration with the WCS Marine Conservation Program.

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